Wild about travel has moved!

As foreshadowed, Boardingarea.com is our new home. Come an join us.
I am still Wild about Travel. I love it. Both the journey and the destination. I will be sharing my experiences with both. Thoughts and observations from where I have been and how I have got there. Expect cities, nature, planes, trains, advice, hassles and good times.

This blog is moving!

The big news is my blog is moving to a new location from next week. I have joined the team at Boardingarea.com

BoardingArea was developed by the same people who founded some of the most popular business travel and frequent flyer Web sites on the Internet.

They say: "In our years covering topics of interest to the business traveler, we bookmarked the best business travel blogs we stumbled across, and even hosted one of the first blogs in this arena - View From the Wing. Now we're sharing those bookmarks with you.. all in one place."

The business travel blogs you will find on BoardingArea are the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the cat's meow ... you get the idea. Each blog in the BoardingArea network has been hand selected by our team for its quality of content, its timeliness, and, last but not least, for its entertainment value.

And I am joining them. Thank you for the vote of confidence and I hope to see you over there soon.

New site: http://boardingarea.com/blogs/wildabouttravel/

American Airlines Bankruptcy?

I am interested in what is happening over at AA.

Unlike most of the major airlines in the USA, American Airlines has avoided bankruptcy. This may change.

Their shares fell 33 per cent yesterday as people expected the worst after a 62 percent drop so far this year. This last fall came amid fears that the airline could be forced into bankruptcy. It has very high debt levels (17 billion), higher cost base, higher ages,  older planes (their average plane is almost 15 years old), a perception of inferior service in a slowing economy.

In July, 2011, the airline placed the world's largest plane order: 260 Airbus A320s and 200 Boeing 737s. This will help reduce their massive fuel bills by up to 25 per cent.

Bankruptcy may help them with staff costings and refinancing.  Their staff morale can't get much lower (AA staff are some of the most negative and disempowered I have seen in the air).

What is the future of AA?

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Tuesday Trip Report: US Airways

US Airways is not one of my favourite airlines. In fact, they rate in my bottom ten airlines based on my previous experiences of their service. I have given them an overall 2.9 out of 5 after a decade of flying them. My experience is that every time I fly them they have declined.

I try to fly airlines I actually like flying.  However, when I find a flight, that fits best schedule and price wise, then I will fly them, even with a carrier I don't like. It also gives me a chance to remember why I don't like that airline!  My client booked me on USAir which gave me a good chance to test them out!

Upon receiving my booking confirmation, I logged onto to US Airways.com to find my seats. The US airways site is clear and simple and works very well except for at times what appeared to be pages that would not load or took a long time to load. I chose an exit row seat for an extra $14 for my connecting flight from Charlotte but the seating chart for Houston to Charlotte would not load. I kept getting a message saying “your session is about to time out would you like more time?” Boy I do love that feature. I hate being logged out of airline websites. Thanks USAir.

It took 24 hours of trying until the seating chart would load. When it did, the entire flight was full with only three empty seats: 7A and 10A and 23E. I had been allocated 23E. The US airways site offered to sell 7A and 10A to me for an extra $20. I was puzzled. Why would those seats be better than other?

To find out, I looked at seatguru.com and found out that Seat 10A does not recline and is misaligned with the window if you want too look out, you have to lean. You will note Seat guru have give it a red flag!As I love looking out the window that seat was no good. 7A (in yellow) has no window at all!' No wonder they were empty. Who would pay $20 extra for that?

So 23E it was

Check in online was easy. Well done US Airways. 

As I travelled out to Houston International airport to catch my first flight to Charlotte due to leave at 540pm, US Airways emailed me to advise that my plane was delayed by two hours and 2 minutes. I knew immediately that I would miss my connection from Charlotte to Richmond.

I logged onto the internet with my phone, to see what alternative flights there were. There were none. Armed with this information, I rang US airways.
First up, the automated voice system. Yuck. I don't care what they are called: Cindy, Anne, Jennie, or Gene someone needs to tell the airlines in the US to program their automatic answering systems for Australian accents, I have a very clear speaking voice but my vowel sounds tend to foul up the American systems.

Machine Voice: In a few words tell me  how I can help you
Me: Delayed flight
Machine: I am sorry I don't understand. Please repeat.
Me:My flight has been delayed
Machine: I am having trouble understanding you. Are you wanting reservations, flight arrivals, frequent flyer Program
Me: Reservations
Machine: Welcome to Flight arrival information ...please say the name of …....

I then pushed “0” repeatedly. Sometimes that works to get me to an operator and it did today!

“Welcome to US airways my name is Barry, how can I help you?
Me: my flight has been delayed and I wont make my connection
Barry: I am sorry for the inconvenience let me see how I can help you

After giving him the booking reference number...

Barry: Ah sir, I regret to inform you that your first flight is severely delayed, You wont make your connection. [I think I said that] Let me see what I can do.
(minutes later) Sir there are no other flights tonight.
Me: Could you check other airlines please. Let me see I will check other airlines for you
Barry: Sir there are no flights tonight. Do you have any flexibility?
Me: No not a lot I have an important meeting at 830am tomorrow morning in Richmond.
Barry: Ah I see it. Let me look. Here we are. I have a flight leaving Houston tomorrow that would get you to Richmond at 240pm
Me: I have a meeting at 830 in Richmond I have to be at
Barry: I don't have any fights that will get you to Richmond by 830am from Houston but if you are  prepared to drive to San Antonio you could take one at 747pm.
Me: Do you realise how far San Antonio is from Houston?
Barry: Ah sir its 193 miles [310km]. You won't make that flight. [You think??]
Me: I said how about I fly to Charlotte tonight in my flight and then overnight there what time is your first flight to Richmond

This is what I did.

At Houston airport. I used the USAirways check in machine to print my boarding pass. There was long line of passengers waiting to talk to a human. As I started the check in process,  another passenger called out to me: "are you in the flight to Charlotte?"
I said that I was.
He said "its delayed". I thanked him and said “Yes I know”. He said: "the machine wont work. You will need to join the line.
I said: "let me have a try"

Clearly, Barry the human from Reservations had worked his magic an changed my flight as my flight immediately loaded for check in.

The plane was now showing half empty. The coveted exit row seats were available. This time there was no charge for 11F by the window in the exit row. My Boarding pass popped out..all in seconds

Security had a very short line so I was through in minutes.

I had brought snacks with me. Which was just as well. Food options in terminal C were very limited. There was a very busy McDonalds a Starbuck closing, a yoghurt shop , a pizza chain and a Chinese take out. Not many light or healthy options of for the Australian options like healthy choice or sumo salad or even a subway!

My plane landed at gate A19 and an announcement was made to gather board:  "Ladies and gentleman we are ready to board flight to Charlotte. Because of the delay we are boarding all zones, all rows."

 There was an immediate stampede. I don't understand that logic, why dispense with the normal boarding process when a plane has been delayed?  If a passenger has paid extra for :”First Class' or an extra seat (14 to 20) would probably feel a little miffed to be left to last?

Boarding was quick. I think people wanted to go . Business class was full, the middle was two thirds full and the rear was almost empty.

We moved to the runway. Safety briefing was rushed with the information regarding the exit rows

Take off we very fast. He really gunned us out of there. As we climbed off the runway we immediately started shuddering through heavy wind gusts, soon we were executing a 90 degree turn as we bounced up and own. We climbed gently from there steadily bouncing.

There were no announcement from the crew or the captain. I like the way Qantas regularly make announcements prior to this happening. For the nervous passenger, I think they like to known then bouncing is expected and normal; (I was far from nervous on this flight).

20 minutes from takeoff,  the cabin crew advised us that the captain had requested crew remain in their seats because of navigating round weather. It wasn't long before the seat belt sign went off and we had smooth flight for the rest of the shift.

USAir service was a free drink in a plastic cup. Coke products. No snacks. This was in addition to a plane with no entertainment or wifi.

This was followed by the FA making announcement that us air would like to have us all 30, 000 miles.
My ears pricked up. This was a very generous compensation for the delay

She continued “all you have to do is sign up for the us airways credit card". She then came through the cabin brandishing application forms. At the rear of the plane she made another announcement:" Congratulations to those five lucky people who have taken a form, there is still time to take one." And up she came again brandishing forms

I commented to the guy two seats away from me "Talk abut hard sell!" and he told me that they get $75 for each card application! She must have been saving for something!

The rest of the flight was uneventful. I found all staff to be very friendly in contrast to the past. This is despite industrial action currently taking lace between USAir pilots and the airline.

My ratings:
Flight 1: 3 out of 5: Bonus points for friendly crews, communication re cancelled flights, website, ease of check in, negatives for lack of on board entertainment, lack of catering
Flight 2: 4 out of 5.

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Monday's A380 Seating

I seem to have snagged the window seat of the exit row on my next A380 flight,
A lot can happen between now and check in so fingers crossed!

Watch for Tuesday Trip Report on 12th October